The Tulsa Police Air Support Unit took their final patrol flight on Halloween night, the latest police aviation unit to fall victim to the downturned economy. The unit was first formed in 1982 and in it's present state consisted of two Bell jet helicopters, and 6 police officer/pilots. Some of the officer/pilots had been assigned to the unit for over 20 years.
Grounding of the helicopters will save the city $195,000 this fiscal year according to published reports. The city has left open the possibility of future patrol flights for now however, by announcing that they will maintain ownership of the idle aircraft. Tulsa's police helicopters were equipped with the 8500 model FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Camera) allowing the officers on board to see criminals in the dark. The 8500 FLIR is essentially the gold standard in todays police helicopters for night time operations.
In the video below the helicopter crew can be heard logging off for the final time. The crew member on the radio can be heard saying "Police 1 and Police 2 10-7 grounded." The code 10-7 generally means "out of service."
Police aviation is an integral tool of modern day law enforcement. While the department will survive without an air unit, one can be just as assured that some violent criminals will evade capture due to the lack of air support. One can only hope that the City of Tulsa will continue to support their police aviation unit when the budget allows.